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August 2, 2022 at 6:00 am · · Comments Off on Highlighting the Residential Component of the 2022 MEREDA Index

Highlighting the Residential Component of the 2022 MEREDA Index

On May 24, Dan Brennan, Director of MaineHousing, was a commentator for the Maine Real Estate & Development Association’s (MEREDA’s) 2022 MEREDA Index. Dan’s comments on the Residential Sector follow Economist Charles Colgan’s analysis for 2021. 

The MEREDA Index is a measure of real estate activity designed to track changes in Maine’s real estate markets. The Index is a composite of nine seasonally adjusted measures reflecting both new development and transactions involving existing properties and it covers both the commercial and residential markets statewide. The most recent edition covers the year 2020 and provides commentary on the Commercial, Residential, and Construction sectors. The MEREDA Index for 2021 is 116.3

THE RESIDENTIAL COMPONENT:  120.8

[Charles Colgan Analysis] “All components of the residential Index showed growth in 2021 over 2020. Existing unit sales and mortgage  Originations grew by about 5% each, but demand clearly exceeded supply in the residential market because the median price index grew by over 14%. The median price for residential sales hit an all-time high of $303,000 in the third quarter. With an Index value over 150 in the second half of the year the median home price in Maine has grown by more than 50% since 2006. This high price probably suppressed sales of existing units to some extent, but it definitely had an effect on housing construction. The index for residential permits grew by 24% over 2020.”

[Dan Brennan, Director of MaineHousing]  “Buying a house in Maine has never been harder. Home prices are soaring, and demand is at a peak. Unfortunately, this red-hot residential marketplace is leaving more and more Mainers out of the equation.That’s why affordable housing in Maine remains an important topic.

Creating enough housing to fill the ever-growing demand has never been more challenging than over the last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. We also have never had a greater opportunity to make large gains in boosting our total housing inventory, thanks in large part to the support coming from both Augusta and Washington, D.C., as well as our municipal partners in places like Old Orchard Beach and Auburn. While the challenges are many, the future also looks promising with so many new projects on the horizon.

MaineHousing, along with partners across the affordable housing landscape, broke development records in 2021 and currently has the largest pipeline in our history. 524 new rental units were put online, creating more housing for families, older adults, the disabled, and those needing extra support. This represents a $121 million investment that is fueling economies from Belfast to Biddeford. Many of those new units have been opened in Maine’s larger service-center communities of Bangor and Portland, where the housing shortage has driven rents and home prices to astronomical levels.

MaineHousing staff, the construction community, and our development partners – both public and private – have adapted well to the challenges presented by ongoing supply chain and labor constraints. From advances in energy efficiency technologies to fast-tracked zoning changes, we have found innovative solutions that are helping us continue to produce units in these difficult times.

As we saw skyrocketing sales prices and an ongoing inventory shortage in 2021, our single family First Home mortgage products trailed off slightly. That said, we maintained record-low interest rates, below three percent, while issuing 725 new First Home mortgages totaling over $114 million. Most of those mortgages also qualified for our Advantage Program, providing eligible borrowers with a $3,500 grant for down payment and closing costs. That program alone provided $2 million in home buying assistance to 97 percent of those approved for First Home mortgages. While the market remains very challenging, we are optimistic we will eclipse our 2021 production numbers in 2022 allowing even more Maine
families to build equity in a home they own.”

July 19, 2022 at 6:00 am · · Comments Off on The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on Thornton Heights Commons (South Portland)

The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on Thornton Heights Commons (South Portland)

Each year, the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) recognizes some of the state’s most “noteworthy and significant” real estate projects, completed in the previous year. The exemplary projects from across the state, completed in 2021, not only embody MEREDA’s belief in responsible real estate development, but also exemplify best practices in the industry, contributing to Maine’s economic growth by significant investment of resources and job creation statewide.

This year, MEREDA honored projects from Portland to Biddeford to Bangor, with each receiving special recognition at MEREDA’s 2022 Spring Conference on May 24th.

In a multi-part series exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation. MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, difficulty of the development, uniqueness, social impact and job creation.

MEREDA’s 2021 Top 7 recipients include:

Harold Alfond Hall, Husson University (Bangor)
Harnois & Emery Apartments, Westbrook Housing, Westbrook Development Corporation, and Anew Development (Westbrook)
Thornton Heights Commons, South Portland Housing Development Corporation (South Portland)
Riverdam Mill Complex, Port Property (Biddeford)
40 Free Street, JB Brown & Sons & Ryan Senatore Architecture, (Portland)
Deering Place, Zachau Construction & Avesta Housing, (Portland)
Children’s Museum + Theatre Maine, Zachau Construction (Portland)

Please join us this week in celebrating Thornton Heights Commons.

MEREDA:  Describe the building and project.

Thornton Heights Commons:  Thornton Heights Commons is a new four-story mixed-use affordable housing and commercial building, with associated parking, community open space and three new single-family house lots located at 611 Main Street in South Portland. The residential portion of the building is comprised of 42 apartments and community amenities. The commercial portion of the building includes 7,000 s.f. of dividable space, an outdoor seating area located along Main Street, and a satellite police station. In addition, the property includes a neighborhood open space, community garden, and three new single-family house lots.

MEREDA:  What was the impetus for this project?  

Thornton Heights Commons:  The South Portland Housing Development Corporation (SPHDC) adopted a new strategic plan in 2016 that called for the organization to increase the development of new affordable housing. In response to these goals, the SPHDC identified the 611 Main Street property as an ideal development site for a mixed-use affordable housing development. In addition to the site’s advantageous location and properties, the project would build upon the City of South Portland’s efforts to revitalize the Main Street corridor in Thornton Heights. The City has installed new sidewalks, traffic calming, landscaping, and ornamental lighting. This new infrastructure laid the groundwork upon which Thornton Heights Commons will contribute to the revitalization of the neighborhood.

MEREDA:  That sounds like quite a process.  How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?

Thornton Heights Commons:  The planning stages started in the fall of 2017 and completed with the start of construction in the summer of 2020.

MEREDA:  Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.

Thornton Heights Commons:  The most challenging aspect of completing Thornton Heights Commons was overcoming the NIMBY response to the proposal. Like many multifamily, and affordable housing, developments in the State, Thornton Heights Commons needed a zoning change to increase the allowed residential density.

While the site fronts on US Route 1, the rear portion of the property abuts a neighborhood of single-family and duplex homes. Anticipating that there would be opposition, the SPHDC planned an extensive neighborhood involved process that was intentionally open-ended in terms of time and design outcomes. In sum, the project would not progress to the zoning application stage until collecting all neighborhood input and exploring all design avenues.

In addition to the design team, SPHDC hired a professional facilitator to moderate the neighborhood meetings. The facilitator created a meeting environmental in which all parties felt comfortable expressing their opinions. Too often, opponents to a development speak the loudest and this intimidates and shuts out supporter input. The facilitator also promoted constructive input that resulted in multiple design iterations and a final design that formed the basis for what was ultimately constructed. The SPHDC also held site visits to existing properties to show the organization’s high level of management and maintenance. Finally, SPHDC help property tours and discussions with City Councilors to relay the project’s positive potential for housing and neighborhood revitalization.

The result was that during the City Council rezoning hearings the SPHDC was able to speak to the extensive public design process and the benefits to of the project. Equally as important, the Council received testimony both against and for the project from neighborhood and City residents. Without this balanced testimony, the project would not have moved forward.

MEREDA:  Something unexpected you learned along the way was….

Thornton Heights Commons:  The project site housed an existing religious campus that included a very large church structure and a school/office/monastery building that contained hazardous substances and thus represented significant costs to redevelopment. The SPHDC, with the assistance of Credere Associates of Westbrook, ME, the Greater Portland Council of Governments Brownfields Assessment Program, the City of South Portland’s CDBG program, the Maine DEP and US EPA, put together $800,000 in funding to convert this blighted and contaminated property into a redevelopment site. What was unexpected was how eager and capable all of these agencies were in providing expertise and funding to turn properties into sites of new investment for public benefit.

MEREDA:  Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable? 

Thornton Heights Commons:  The most notable feature is the building’s mix of residential, commercial and public uses. Mixed-use development is touted by public policy, planning and smart growth advocates for its positive social and environmental benefits. However, it is very difficult to develop and adds significant complexity to any development project. SPHDC has put a significant amount of time and resources into developing Thornton Heights Commons as a first-rate mixed-use project that will benefit its residents, the neighborhood and the City of South Portland. We are very proud of the project.

July 13, 2022 at 10:05 am · · Comments Off on MEREDA Appoints Committee Co-Chairs

MEREDA Appoints Committee Co-Chairs

PORTLAND, July 13, 2022 – The Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) is pleased to announce two additional appointments of committee co-chairs.

Participation on any one of MEREDA’s five standing committees gives members an opportunity to raise their profile within Maine’s real estate community, and help the association meet its goals. Committee work allows members to play an active role in the association’s affairs and all members are encouraged to participate. We are happy to announce the appointments of two additional committee co-chairs.

Scarborough resident, Shawn McKenna, Vice President of Commercial Banking at Bangor Savings Bank, will fill the role of Co-Chair of MEREDA’s Membership & Marketing Committee.

In his role as senior commercial relationship manager, Shawn is a creative individual that is eager to thoroughly understand any idea, product, or concept. During his 20+ years with Bangor Savings Bank, he has held roles as a commercial underwriter, real estate appraisal review specialist, and commercial portfolio manager. Shawn’s interest in solving problems, conceiving new concepts, and understanding a borrower’s needs comes in handy when working with a multitude of commercial banking clients. Outside of the office, Shawn is an avid automobile and outdoor enthusiast that enjoys travel and spending time with his wife Traci as well as their two French bulldogs, Boston and Una. Shawn has been a volunteer on MEREDA’s Marketing and Membership Committee since 2017 and was elected to the MEREDA Board of Directors in July 2018.

“Shawn has been an invaluable addition to our volunteer board and committee,” says Shelly R. Clark, Executive Director of MEREDA. “Having Shawn step into the Co-Chair role will only strengthen the committee and its important work.”

Additionally, Attorney Jason G. Howe of Gorham has been named co-Chair of MEREDA’s Public Policy Committee. Jason is an equity partner at Preti Flaherty, where he serves as co-chair of the firm’s Real Estate and Finance Practice Group.

Jason represents clients locally, regionally, and nationally on matters relating to real estate development, corporate restructuring, business acquisitions, private equity investments, and complex commercial leasing – including a specialty in logistics, warehousing, and 3PL facilities. Jason also represents both lenders and private equity groups in financing commercial real estate development and various hospitality concerns. He provides full lifecycle guidance for businesses from strategic start-up structuring and initial investment, to credit facility, acquisition growth, and ultimate sale.

Jason is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law, where he served as president of the Student Bar Association and as articles editor for the Maine Law Review. Prior to joining Preti Flaherty, Jason was an equity partner at a mid-sized firm in southern Maine.

MEREDA’s active Public Policy Committee meets regularly during each legislative session reviewing pending bills and regulations, identifying those of interest to the membership, and works to ensure the real estate industry’s concerns are considered. The committee works to influence and shape the final form of proposed laws and regulations, and initiates new ones when circumstances warrant. MEREDA’s Public Policy Committee Chair, Paul Peck of Drummond & Drummond says, “Jason has been a valuable member of MEREDA’s public policy committee. He brings a strong and diverse background on a variety of development matters to the committee. We look forward to working and collaborating with him on behalf of MEREDA’s members on the various legislative and regulatory issues that the committee addresses”.

For further information, please contact MEREDA’s Executive Director, Shelly R. Clark at 207-874-0801 or visit www.mereda.org.

July 12, 2022 at 9:33 am · · Comments Off on MEREDA Names New President and Announces 22-23 Officers

MEREDA Names New President and Announces 22-23 Officers

Scarborough resident Craig Young, CCIM, Partner & Sr. Broker at The Boulos Company is the new president of the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA), a statewide organization of commercial real estate owners, developers and related service providers. Founded in 1985, MEREDA promotes responsible development and ownership of real estate in Maine through legislative advocacy, educational programs and professional networking opportunities.

Craig is a Partner and Senior Broker at The Boulos Company, a commercial real estate firm that blends Maine and New Hampshire market knowledge with a global network and is dedicated to serving owners, investors, and tenants. Joining the company in 1987, he takes the time to intimately understand his clients’ internal goals and processes to be their best advocate. His supportive approach successfully guides clients through even the most complex real estate deals.

Craig joined the MEREDA Board of Directors in 2015, becoming a vice president in 2020, as well as co-chair of its Conference Committee. In 2022, Craig was selected to receive MEREDA’s Volunteer of the Year Award for his work in 2021. The Volunteer of the Year Award is awarded to those who are actively engaged and generously share their time, talents, and energy with MEREDA. His leadership was especially appreciated while we navigated the coronavirus pandemic.

Craig succeeds Josh Fifield, Vice President, Senior Account Executive at Clark Insurance, who has led MEREDA for the past two years. “Josh’s stewardship during the COVID pandemic is unprecedented for our organization. Josh’s enthusiasm and steady hand guided the organization as it continued to offer social networking events, growth in membership and financial stability,” said Young. “I welcome the opportunity to guide MEREDA through these continuing challenging times while we pursue real estate advocacy through local and State public policy, networking opportunities and advocacy for our members.”

MEREDA also announced its 2022 / 2023 slate of officers which include President Craig Young of The Boulos Company, Vice Presidents Shannon Richards of Hay Runner, Gary Vogel of Drummond Woodsum, and Jennifer Small of Malone Commercial Brokers, Treasurer Mark Stasium of Camden National Bank, and Secretary Shelly R. Clark, who also serves full time as MEREDA’s Executive Director.

 

July 11, 2022 at 10:11 am · · Comments Off on MEREDA Announces Local Issues Committee Co-Chair

MEREDA Announces Local Issues Committee Co-Chair

John Finegan of South Portland, an Associate Broker at The Boulos Company, has been named Co-Chair of the Maine Real Estate & Development Association’s (MEREDA’s) Local Issues Committee.

At The Boulos Company, John works on the brokerage team of Drew Sigfridson, SIOR and Jessica Estes. He works in leasing and sales of Commercial Real Estate in Southern Maine with a particular focus on multifamily. Prior to joining Boulos, John spent four years at SynQor, Inc., a defense contractor based in Massachusetts, as a Regional Sales Manager covering Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Benelux and the UK.

John graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of New Hampshire in 2014 with BS degrees in Finance and Accounting. In his free time, John likes to ski, run, and spend time in the gym. John was born in North Yarmouth, Maine and attended high school at North Yarmouth Academy. He now lives in South Portland with his girlfriend, Elizabeth.

MEREDA’s active Local Issues Committee was created in 2019 to monitor and timely engage on local land use and development matters. The Committee has a two-fold mission: to develop and deploy a proactive educational initiative designed to inform developers across Maine in best practices and tools to minimize local resistance to a real estate development project; and to react to issues that rise to a level of concern that warrant the engagement of MEREDA to influence the outcome of such an issue in a manner that is favorable to MEREDA.

John will co-chair the Local Issues Committee with Tom Schoening of Drummond & Drummond who has chaired the committee since its inception. MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations, Shelly R. Clark says, “John is a valuable member of the Local Issues Committee. He brings a strong and diverse background, and we look forward to working and collaborating with him on behalf of MEREDA’s members on the various issues that the committee addresses”.

For further information, please contact MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations, Shelly R. Clark at 207-874-0801 or visit www.mereda.org.

July 5, 2022 at 6:00 am · · Comments Off on Highlighting the Commercial Component of the 2022 MEREDA Index

Highlighting the Commercial Component of the 2022 MEREDA Index

On May 24, Katie Allen, a Broker at The Dunham Group, was a commentator for the Maine Real Estate & Development Association’s (MEREDA’s) 2022 MEREDA Index. Katie’s comments on the Commercial Sector follow Economist Charles Colgan’s analysis for 2021. 

The MEREDA Index is a measure of real estate activity designed to track changes in Maine’s real estate markets. The Index is a composite of nine seasonally adjusted measures reflecting both new development and transactions involving existing properties and it covers both the commercial and residential markets statewide. The most recent edition covers the year 2020 and provides commentary on the Commercial, Residential, and Construction sectors. The MEREDA Index for 2021 is 116.3

THE COMMERCIAL COMPONENT:  116.7

[Charles Colgan Analysis] “Following little growth in 2020, the commercial Index grew overall by nearly 9%. The principal driver of the growth was a significant increase in lease and sales transactions. There were 575 commercial transactions in 2021 compared with 325 in 2020. Square footage sold and leased also increased by 1.6 million square feet. The rapid growth in supply was most likely a response to the abnormal conditions of 2020, but the supply growth was not met with comparable demand growth, resulting in both the per square foot sales and lease rate indexes to each decline by about 5%.”

[Katie Allen, Broker, The Dunham Group]  “Coming into 2021, we felt a sense of optimism that people would start coming back to the office. While this did happen on a small scale – predominantly in downtown offices – the Delta variant quickly changed people’s ‘back to work’ plans. Office tenants were all over the place and no one seemed to have an answer on how to effectively move forward. As a result of all this uncertainty, two major trends emerged. First, tenants with lease expirations in 2021 (or even later) whose employees could work from home, chose to abandon their space altogether. Second, tenants chose very short-term renewals as a way to kick the can down the road. Most landlords accepted these renewals, often on less than favorable terms, in order to keep vacancy down and to get a shot at future renewals. In my opinion, because of this, the real impact of Covid on the office market has yet to be seen.

In direct contrast, the investment market thrived in 2021 where the overriding theme was lack of inventory. Quality, well-priced investment properties almost never made it to market, but were sent directly from brokers to the ever-widening pool of eager investors. Cap rates at or below 6%-7% became the norm, especially for larger apartment complex sales, and 1031 Tax Deferred Exchanges remained a driving factor in the strength of the market.

Hands down, the shining star of the 2021 commercial market was the industrial sector. With a vacancy rate of less than 2%, every aspect of the industrial market seemed to flourish. Rental rates were up, sale of owner/user properties and industrial investment grade properties set record $/SF sale prices. Even with an influx of new inventory from The Downs in Scarborough, the industrial sector managed to surpass everyone’s expectations and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

The retail sector was a bit of a surprise. While we saw some bigger vacancies in the suburban market, we didn’t see the panic we expected from Covid. The downtown Portland market sadly lost several restaurants and retailers, but it felt like just as a space would go vacant, someone was there to scoop it up. Tenants who have been trying for years to get into the Old Port now had the opportunity. Also, as Covid drove people out of bigger cities into Southern Maine, their ideas for new restaurants, boutiques, and specialty stores came along, too. Thankfully, it seems that neither online shopping, food delivery services, nor Covid can kill the bricks and mortar stores and restaurants we all love.”

 

June 21, 2022 at 6:00 am · · Comments Off on The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on Harold Alfond Hall (Bangor)

The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on Harold Alfond Hall (Bangor)

Each year, the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) recognizes some of the state’s most “noteworthy and significant” real estate projects, completed in the previous year. The exemplary projects from across the state, completed in 2021, not only embody MEREDA’s belief in responsible real estate development, but also exemplify best practices in the industry, contributing to Maine’s economic growth by significant investment of resources and job creation statewide.

This year, MEREDA honored projects from Portland to Biddeford to Bangor, with each receiving special recognition at MEREDA’s 2022 Spring Conference on May 24th.

In a multi-part series exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation. MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, difficulty of the development, uniqueness, social impact and job creation.

MEREDA’s 2021 Top 7 recipients include:

Harold Alfond Hall, Husson University (Bangor)
Harnois & Emery Apartments, Westbrook Housing, Westbrook Development Corporation, and Anew Development (Westbrook)
Thornton Heights Commons, South Portland Housing Development Corporation (South Portland)
Riverdam Mill Complex, Port Property (Biddeford)
40 Free Street, JB Brown & Sons & Ryan Senatore Architecture, (Portland)
Deering Place, Zachau Construction & Avesta Housing, (Portland)
Children’s Museum + Theatre Maine, Zachau Construction (Portland)

Please join us this week in celebrating Harold Alfond Hall.

MEREDA:  Describe the building and project.

Husson University:  Husson University’s Harold Alfond Hall is a $17.2 million, 42,000 square foot state-of-the-art, multi-purpose building. It serves an array of students, faculty, and external organizations. The building is a beautiful facility that’s designed to accommodate growth. It contains leading-edge technologies and advancements designed to foster student engagement and experiential learning. The facility also serves as a center for collaborative interactions with Maine’s business community. With a light and airy atmosphere that ties into its native surroundings, the building provides copious amounts of natural light. This has made Harold Alfond Hall an uplifting space that’s conducive to learning. The project was made possible through donations from generous donors who believe in and support the University’s mission.

Providing traditional classes and regional workforce development, this educational facility serves both students and the community. Classrooms are fully equipped to provide agile workshops where Maine entrepreneurs, students, faculty, and industry experts can create and collaborate. The building includes state-of-the-art audio visual systems, advanced acoustic control, an extended reality center, a financial center, flexible workspaces providing virtually unlimited opportunities for collaborative and “hands-on” experiential learning, and a forensic science lab used for the analysis of crime scene evidence.

MEREDA:  What was the impetus for this project?  

Husson University:  Tracing its origins back to the Shaw Business College and School of Penmanship in 1898, Husson’s College of Business has grown to be the largest school of its kind in Maine. More students choose to get a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Husson University than any other college or University in the state. The University began monitoring education growth trends more than ten years the building was commissioned. Projections showed a clear need for this facility in order to accommodate the University’s growing demand for physical space. The building is also helping Husson to fulfill its mission and implement advancements in pedagogy, technology and innovation.

Now completed, this facility represents a major milestone in the progression of professional education at Husson University. In addition to student engagement and experiential learning, Harold Alfond Hall facilitates collaborative interactions with the faculty, students and Maine’s business community. Equipped with advanced technology, the building strengthens the University’s ability to work with students and other constituents in remote locations. It also enhances the University’s ability to provide the skilled and talented workforce Maine needs to compete in today’s global economy. Harold Alfond Hall represents years of meticulous planning, extensive private fundraising, and careful execution.

MEREDA:  That sounds like quite a process.  How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?

Husson University:  Significant effort went into the planning stages of this project. After its original concepts were outlined, Husson University spent years considering revisions and new ideas. Initial preliminary design sketches date back to 2012. Over the next several years, concepts were developed and evaluated collaboratively by a variety of stakeholders in an effort to design a futuristic building that could serve our academic mission well into the future. Efforts accelerated in 2017 when the Harold Alfond Foundation announced it would provide a one dollar match for every two dollars donated to Husson for this project, up to a total of $4 million. That same year, the University signed a contract that carried the project into the design development and detailed design phases. Construction began in the spring of 2020.

MEREDA:  Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.

Husson University:  There were many challenges that arose during the design and construction of this building. At the onset, we engaged in a highly collaborative design process including: students, faculty, staff, architects, construction and design teams, our board of trustees, and various stakeholders. This input resulted in numerous design changes. Husson wanted to ensure that all voices were heard and all needs were captured within the design and function of this building.

Construction commenced shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The impact of COVID-19 on the project was extensive. It resulted in the issuance and enforcement of personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements and protocols to safeguard against spread of the coronavirus on the jobsite. Infections and work stoppages constantly rerouted our critical path forcing workarounds.

We encountered numerous labor and material shortages. Cost escalations forced us to continually change our plans to keep the project on track. We also incurred in-process design changes to improve our defenses against COVID-19 and future pandemics with enhancements such as touchless entries and fixtures as well as a hospital-grade air filtration system. In addition, the facility is designed to keep pace with the evolution of technology utilized by our advanced iEX center. Despite those challenges, the team brought the building in on schedule and under budget.

MEREDA:  Something unexpected you learned along the way was….

Husson University: This project has taught us the benefits and power of a collaborative design effort. As part of Husson’s meticulous, long-term planning process, the University was able to glean tremendous insights from students, faculty, staff, architects, construction managers, design teams, and our board of trustees. This input was integrated into the building’s design. The result was a world class educational facility. It’s exciting to see the completed facility in action as it provides an engaging and unique learning environment for our students. The extensive and collaborative design process and construction reflect the ideas everyone brought to the table.

MEREDA:  Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable? 

Husson University:  The building’s expansive glass curtain wall and prominent location immediately draws one in upon entering campus. High-tech classrooms, a financial center, a crime scene lab, a forensics lab, computer lab, a world-class extended reality center, interactive work rooms, and numerous study spaces are all in support of what we consider to be the most notable aspect of this building – its ability to positively impact the role Husson plays in transforming students’ lives.

June 7, 2022 at 6:00 am · · Comments Off on Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity: MEREDA Spring Conference Does Deep Dive Into the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity: MEREDA Spring Conference Does Deep Dive Into the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

On Tuesday, May 24th, the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) hosted its annual Spring Conference where some 200 real estate professionals gathered at the Holiday Inn By the Bay, as well as virtually, to learn more about the recently enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). With $2.5 billion of federal funds set to flood the state to support programs for improving infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and broadband access, the MEREDA event provided an opportunity to do a deep dive into the impact of the infrastructure bill on Maine and its economy.

“MEREDA is committed to promoting responsible development across the state and to providing forums for our members to engage and learn,” shares Joshua Fifield, MEREDA President. “Our Spring Conference gave us an occasion to connect, discuss, and gain a better understanding about the ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity that the infrastructure bill is presenting to us. We’re at a critical juncture on many fronts and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in our state. MEREDA and its members are looking forward to these exciting new opportunities to invest in Maine’s future.”

Keynote speaker Commissioner Heather Johnson from the Department of Economic and Community Development kicked off the event with a general overview of how the state plans to put the federal funds to work to help Maine. These new funds will complement the planning and programs already in motion from the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan as well as the Governor’s 10-Year Strategic Plan. From preparing and growing our workforce to providing all Mainers a reliable connection to broadband, Commissioner Johnson reported that Maine is poised to be efficient and effective with using the federal funds. Commissioner Johnson also stressed that the state is focused on long term strategies, not short-term band-aid solutions to improve the lives of current Mainers and those people migrating to Maine.

Dale Doughty, Director of Planning at the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT), continued the discussion with a Keynote presentation on the DOT’s plans for the federal funds. Doughty highlighted the Village Partnership Initiative where the DOT partners with local municipalities to help improve access to downtown areas with “gateway treatments” and pedestrian crossings, features which can dramatically improve rural communities. Doughty provided the example of the transformation of the Belgrade Lakes Village on how the DOT could help a town bring back the “human scale” to its downtown. Despite the fact that the BIL funds will barely cover the impact of inflation in the DOT’s use of formula funds for improving roads and bridges, Doughty was optimistic about Maine’s opportunity to capitalize on the expanded grants programs that will enable them to continue to improve and transform the transportation options in Maine.

After a recognition of MEREDA’s 2021 Notable Project recipients, Economist Dr. Charles Colgan gave a presentation on the economic impact of the BIL. Dr. Colgan broke down the $2.5 billion that Maine will receive over 5 years, noting, “It’s not enough, but it may be all we get.” Nonetheless, Colgan observed the opportunities for Maine to really make an impact with this “once-in-a-generation” investment, like removing contaminants like PFAS in Maine’s water infrastructure system. He concluded his presentation by suggesting a strategy for using the federal funds, stressing the need to stretch the funds by supplementing local programs already in place and to recognize the opportunities to invest in truly transformative technologies, such as broadband and wind and solar power. “The biggest mistake is to carry on investing in old systems,” said Colgan. “There’s a lot of work to be done!”

MEREDA shifted from Dr. Colgan’s perspective on infrastructure to his perspective on the real estate economy as it unveiled its 2022 Index, a key economic indicator for Maine. The conference then concluded with a panel discussion featuring Scott Jason of Cianbro Construction, Michael Stoddard of Efficiency Maine, Greg Payne from the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, and Kerem Durdag of GWI Broadband. The panel was moderated by Brain Curley, Architect and Director of Design and Construction at MaineHealth. The dynamic discussion with these in-state experts highlighted the wide range of intersecting topics that are crucial to maximizing the impact of the BIL funds for the state. Jason focused on the workforce challenges companies like Cianbro face to be able to build new infrastructure, noting that in particular Cianbro needs to attract highly skilled workers with years of experience to complete some of the necessary projects. Selling Maine as a place to live in addition to training entry-level construction workers is part of their strategy. Stoddard outlined how the federal funds can help Maine “go electric” and highlighted the opportunities building owners and developers have to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. Installing electric vehicle chargers across the state will be another focus for Efficiency Maine. While not specifically part of the BIL funds, Payne spoke about how the affordable housing landscape is a key part of the discussion for Maine to help house the state’s workforce and drive development in rural areas. “Maine’s affordable housing pipeline is big and we need to keep it that way,” shared Payne. Durdag spoke of the monumental effort that companies like GWI and others are engaged in to bring broadband to every Mainer who wants it. The massive injection of federal funds will help Maine level up its infrastructure to the 21st century and enable Mainers “to do business and interact on a global scale.” Durdag compared the current broadband effort to the Rural Electrification Administration in the 1930s which brought electricity to millions of Americans and to the Federal-Aid Highway Act of the 1950s which changed the way we travel through our country. “What we build today, our kid’s kids will be leveraging off of,” shared Durdag. With the support and planning of the Governor’s office, the plan is to have the state’s broadband network in place in the next seven years. “In terms of speed, that is bonkers-nuts,” quipped Durdag.

To sum things up, Curley commented during the audience Q&A that he is blown away by the transformative nature of the BIL funds. “It’s about more than roads and bridges,” shared Curley. “There will be a ripple effect.” The Spring Conference brought together our state’s best and brightest and underscored how MEREDA and its members have an opportunity to invest in infrastructure that will help Maine build its future in a responsible way. As Durdag noted on the effort, “It will have a massive societal impact. What we do today will matter for generations.”

 

May 27, 2022 at 10:01 am · · Comments Off on MEREDA’s Annual “Strikes for Scholars” Bowl-a-Thon Fundraiser Raises Funds for Scholarships for Maine Students

MEREDA’s Annual “Strikes for Scholars” Bowl-a-Thon Fundraiser Raises Funds for Scholarships for Maine Students

MEREDA is thrilled to announce that it’s 2022 Strikes for Scholars Bowl-a-Thon Fundraiser was a great success! This year we will be making donations to be used for student scholarships to both the ACE Mentor Program of Maine as well as to the Associated General Contractors of Maine’s Education Foundation.

MEREDA began its scholarship program for students in the building trades and professions 10 years ago and has continued to grow and support the program. Since the fundraiser’s inception, MEREDA is proud to have raised and donated over $151,000 to deserving Maine students. This includes this year’s donation of $18,000!

We are deeply appreciative of everyone involved in this event, sharing our goal of supporting Maine’s students pursuing education related to construction, design, engineering, and architecture. Our Sponsors AAA Energy Service Co. & Machias Savings Bank, as well as our bowling teams, and those who purchased raffle tickets!

Additional thanks to the folks at Boulos Asset Management for allowing us the use of their Lancaster Street parking lot to help with the overflow of guests, and to Malone Commercial Brokers, for donating funds from their MCB4ME Campaign to Strikes for Scholars! Without their involvement, these substantial donations would not be possible.

May 26, 2022 at 3:40 pm · · Comments Off on The Magnificent Seven: MEREDA’s 2021 Notable Project Recipients Honored

The Magnificent Seven: MEREDA’s 2021 Notable Project Recipients Honored

The Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA), the state’s leading organization promoting responsible real estate development, honored projects from Portland to Biddeford to Bangor, with each receiving special recognition at MEREDA’s 2022 Spring Conference on May 24th.

Each year, MEREDA recognizes some of the state’s most “noteworthy and significant” real estate projects, completed in the previous year. The exemplary projects from across the state, completed in 2021, not only embody MEREDA’s belief in responsible real estate development, but also exemplify best practices in the industry, contributing to Maine’s economic growth by significant investment of resources and job creation statewide.

Each of the seven projects was selected in part based upon criteria including: noteworthy and significant project completed* in 2020 (*Building Occupancy Permit issued by 12 31 21), environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, social impact, uniqueness, difficulty of development and job creation.

The recipients of MEREDA’s Top 7 Most Notable Projects of 2021 include:

• Westbrook Housing, Westbrook Development Corporation, and Anew Development’s Harnois & Emery Apartments in Westbrook preserves, redevelops, and expands affordable housing in a highly desirable location. This 75-unit mixed-income development includes a major renovation of 13 existing units and the construction of two new residential buildings on adjacent lots. The desire for this type of housing is so great that Avesta Housing had over 800 applications. Deering Place is close to public transportation, food, services, and healthcare and puts residents close to jobs in the downtown area.

• Husson University’s Harold Alfond Hall in Bangor, the new home for Maine’s largest College of Business. It represents a major milestone in the progression of professional education at Husson University. The building was constructed using a holistic approach to sustainable design and the new building meets or exceeds all International Energy Efficiency Certificate requirements and exceeds Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Requirements by 15%.

• South Portland Housing Development Corporation’s Thornton Heights Commons in South Portland, a four-story, mixed-use affordable housing and commercial building with associated parking, community open space, and three new single-family house lots. The residential portion of the project includes 42 apartments with community amenities. The commercial portion of the project includes 7,000 square feet of dividable space, an outdoor seating area, and a satellite police station. The development process commenced with a difficult land use approval process and the successful completion of the project represents a public partnership built upon a team effort.

• Port Property’s Riverdam Mill Complex in Biddeford, an ambitious redevelopment of two mill buildings comprising the former Saco Water Power Company to the west of Factory Island. These historic buildings were transformed into retail spaces, restaurants, and 71 residential apartments, including 7 affordable units. Parts of the existing buildings were salvaged and repurposed on site, adding to Riverdam’s charm while also reducing its environmental footprint. ADA accessibility to the adjacent Riverwalk was a priority for the project, and after collaborating with the City of Biddeford, the project allows more people access to the beauty of the Falls and Saco Rivers.

• JB Brown & Sons & Ryan Senatore Architecture’s 40 Free Street located in Portland’s Old Port, is a new construction, mixed-use building made up of five retail spaces at the street level and 51 market-rate apartment units on its upper floors. Prior to development, the project site was occupied by a surface parking lot which limited density in Portland’s downtown and fractured the historic streetscape along Free Street. Through the development of an energy-efficient building that offers environmental, economic, and social benefits, this project provides an architecturally holistic solution for its site and for downtown Portland.

• Zachau Construction & Avesta’s Deering Place in Portland, preserves, redevelops, and expands affordable housing in a highly desirable location. This 75-unit mixed-income development includes a major renovation of 13 existing units and the construction of two new residential buildings on adjacent lots. The desire for this type of housing is so great that Avesta Housing had over 800 applications. Deering Place is close to public transportation, food, services, and healthcare and puts residents close to jobs in the downtown area.

• Zachau Construction’s Children’s Museum + Theatre Maine in Portland, a long-standing staple of the Southern Maine community and now has a beautiful new location on Thompson’s Point for children to learn, play, and explore. With its unique colorful siding that mimics patterns found in nature, the building is an iconic addition to Portland’s cityscape. With its state-of-the-art exhibits, the museum encourages creativity and exploration for children of all ages and backgrounds.

MEREDA congratulates its 2021 Notable Project Award Recipients and thanks its Membership for their continued commitment to responsible development in Maine. Each project will be recognized in the Maine Real Estate Insider e-newsletter published by Mainebiz, running Summer of 2022.

For more information on these impressive projects, please click here or contact MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations, Shelly R. Clark at info@mereda.org or visit www.mereda.org.